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City's bike friendly ways win silver

Mountain View moves up in League of American Bicyclists rankings

Mountain View is standing out from most Bay Area cities when it comes to bike-friendliness, according to the the League of American Bicyclists. The organization moved Mountain View up to the silver standard in its Bike Friendly Communities program.

Thanks mostly to Mountain View's expansion of its creekside trails and a bike sharing program set for installation this fall, Mountain View earned a spot as a silver-level bike friendly community on Oct. 18, the city's best showing. It had been ranked at the bronze level in 2004 and 2008.

The designation was made after a routine application this year by city officials seeking to keep Mountain View as one of the country's 242 "Bicycle Friendly Communities" picked by the Washington D.C.-based League of American Bicyclists.

"While we are proud of this new designation, and the improvements that have been made in recent years, we know there is still much more that can be done to make Mountain View more bike- and pedestrian-friendly and I'm sure we will continue to work toward that end," said City Manager Dan Rich, who occasionally commutes by bike from Palo Alto to City Hall.

Mountain View leaves the ranks of neighboring bronze-level cities like Menlo Park, Los Altos, Sunnyvale and San Jose, but it's still behind Palo Alto, Stanford and San Francisco, the Bay Area's three communities that have a gold rating.

Several Mountain View cyclists who have been pushing for better bike routes in the city cheered the achievement, calling it "good news" in emails. But they said the city still has some difficult work to do. Some point to what Palo Alto has done, with high rates of biking among students, its innovative bike boulevards which allow through-traffic only for bicyclists and pedestrians and its narrowing of Arastradero Road. The "road diet" is something bike advocates want to see for California Street and Shoreline Boulevard in the wake of fatal accidents that killed three pedestrians on those streets this year. It would eliminate a traffic lane to allow for wider bike lanes and encourage lower speeds for cars.

To achieve the new rating, city officials pointed to a bevy of improvements since 2008, including over $16 million in new bike bridges on extensions of the Stevens Creek and Permanent Creek trails. Also considered was a new bike boulevard, finished in fall 2011, from the downtown train station to Knickerbocker Drive and Heatherstone Way. While it doesn't favor bike traffic like a Palo Alto bike boulevard, it includes large directional signs with key destinations, distances and estimated travel times, as well as improved bike lane striping on The Americana, special pavement markings, traffic signage and additional traffic signal loop detectors for bicycles, said public works engineer Helen Kim in an email.

The rating also took into account a regional bike-sharing system set for installation late this year, placing 117 bikes at stations around Mountain View for use by anyone who pays a nominal membership fee.

"Bike-sharing systems have had really tremendous impact on not just getting mode share, it also provides a really low barrier to start riding," said Carolyn Scepanski, director of communications for the League. "Here in Washington D.C. and other places like it, you see that more women are riding with the bike-share system than you would see in the general population."

There's also the fact that Mountain View hasn't seen a bike-related fatality in over five years, which is "huge" Scepanski said. And as bicycling rates increase, bike advocates say collisions involving bikes become fewer and fewer.

Scepanski had several suggestions for improving the rating. Perhaps the biggest challenge is that the city needs more "protected bike infrastructure," Scepanski said, such as bike lanes with extra width or bike lanes placed between parked cars and the curb. To promote that, she said, the city could adopt a "complete streets policy," as other cities have done, which encourages the development of bicycle and pedestrian-friendly streets.

Scepanski also mentioned the use of "Cycle Tracks," a smart phone application used by San Francisco, Monterey and other cities to track routes that cyclists favor in order to better plan the placement of new bike infrastructure.

The League also promotes enforcement as one of its guiding principles for cities. Police should have special training on bicycle laws, have a "point-person to interact with cyclists" and distribute share-the-road brochures, preferably in English and Spanish, Scepanski said. Such efforts generally target motorists to raise awareness that cyclists have a right to use the road, and to educate them how to safely pass a cyclist, she said.

Only three cities in the country have reached the League's platinum rating: Boulder, Colo.; Portland, Ore. and Davis. The League recently introduced a yet-to-be-achieved diamond rating in order to push the bar even higher.

Mountain View's bike use among commuters is rapidly rising, from 4.1 percent of commuters using bikes in 2010 rising to 6.2 percent in 2011, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data on how commuters use different modes of transportation.

"If mode share is going up, the community is obviously doing something right," Scepanski said. "Mountain View needs to be looking more like Davis, Ca. or Boulder, Colo.," Scepanski said, which have 16.6 and 9.6 percent of commuters travel by bike, respectively. "Smaller towns tend to have a high bike mode share than a major metropolis like Portland," which has a bike commuting mode share of 6.3 percent despite its platinum rating.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 23, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Mountain View has pretty good bike routes around town, but bicycling to neighboring towns (Palo Alto, Los Altos, Sunnyvale) is unnecessarily difficult. The city needs to coordinate with our neighbors to make bicycle routes continuous between towns. For example, Los Altos has nice bike lanes on San Antonio Road, but why do those end at El Camino Real, leaving bicyclists in limbo?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of The Crossings
on Oct 23, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Mountain View's road shoulders remarked as bike paths are unsafe. Nantucket's extensive bike paths are separate from roads. Is it impossible for us in Mountain View to create safer bike paths?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nice
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 24, 2012 at 6:34 am

Nice job MV! Gold or Platinum is next. Keep up the great progress!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Oct 24, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Bikes kick A.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Enrico
a resident of North Whisman
on Oct 24, 2012 at 3:57 pm

The road diet would eliminate a traffic lane on California Street and Shoreline Boulevard.
Please, don't.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Biking Mom
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 24, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Good job MV !
Lets have more focus on schools.
Los Altos have a plan to provide every kid living within 2 miles of school a safe route.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr Advice
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Oct 25, 2012 at 8:15 am

WHAT HAPPENED TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH? IF I VOICE MY OPINION WITH NO SWEAR WORDS IT GETS DELETED, [Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hello?!
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Oct 25, 2012 at 10:28 am

No freedom of speech on privately own message boards silly. Doesn't _everybody_ know that by now??? Don't you agree with private property rights?
You're caps lock is on.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thanks
a resident of The Crossings
on Oct 25, 2012 at 11:25 am

Cycling keeps gaining in popularity? I'll buy that! I'm doing more biking and 4 of my friends have taken it up just this year. We commute by bike at least one day per week. We probably wouldn't if MV wasn't a decent place to ride. Thanks MV!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 26, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Let's not cut out traffic lanes on busy streets, instead how about making one sidewalk for bikes and the other sidewalk on the other side of the street for people to walk. Also I would like to see the Hetch Hetchy water right away make into a trail for the entire way at least in Mountain View


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Oh My No
a resident of Whisman Station
on Oct 26, 2012 at 3:02 pm

When cars pull out of driveways or intersecting streets, they generally
look into the flow of traffic affecting the turn they want to make. Ever have a wrong way cyclist surprise the heck out of you? That's what would happen all the time if there were two directional sidewalks. Putting people into situations that have them traveling in two directions on the same side of the street would only make the lawyers happy. Maybe the pay by the injury doctors too.


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